Pancake Day.

It’s becoming painfully apparent to me that the most regularly employed tag on this blog is “I Ate That,” and that we might be skewing a bit less “accidental Chicago” and a bit more “purposeful consumption of high fructose corn syrup.”

Never you mind, because yesterday was what my mother referred to when we were growing up as “Shrove Tuesday” (I have literally never heard anyone else call what is commonly known as “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday” as such, but apparently it’s a thing.)

In Chicago, our many Polish-American friends and neighbors also refer to this day as “Paczki Day,” named for the sweet, dense, doughnut-esque filled pastries that must contain lard, butter, and margarine in order to hold their particular shape. (Sidenote: this is the best cover story ever for using three kinds of shortening in one markedly shapeless pastry.)

I’ve never experienced the full reward born from the determination of being at Bridgeport Bakery at Archer and Loomis–where Paczkis are ordered weeks in advance and a traffic cop appears around 10 a.m. to arbitrate the vehicular melee–when they open in the wee small hours of this Tuesday morning each year (having closed as early as noon the day before to prepare), but my more determined coworker was there before the office opened yesterday, snagging the sweet horde pictured above and proving nice enough to share.

In our house, Fat Tuesday always meant pancakes for dinner, a tradition I find we carried over from our English family members (though we nixed the lemon juice and sugar topping favored in Northern Ireland). I couldn’t find anyone else in my circle familiar with this practice, but that didn’t stop them from accompanying me to iHop and partaking in a meal more side-laden than anything ever served at home, and involving a Leslie-Knope-approved-level of whipped cream.

Spiritual practices aside, it seems penance–of the dietary variety–may actually be in order.


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